MOGADISHU (AFP) -Somali clan elders and residents of southern Somalia have said that about 100 civilians were killed this week in US and Ethiopian air strikes on suspected Al-Qaeda targets in the region.
There was no way to independently confirm the toll, and it was unclear Thursday if the sources were referring to the same areas hit by at least one US air raid on Monday, and others believed to have been launched by Ethiopian helicopters.
Sheikh Abdullahi Ali Malabon, an elder in the Afmadow area, one of several said 100 bodies had been counted.
“We have sent a team to assess the casualties there and they have confirmed more than 100 people killed,” he told AFP by phone from the remote area. “Many others were wounded but we don’t have an exact number.”
Closer to the Kenyan border, in between the villages of Afmadow and Dhobley, residents and elders also spoke of at least 100 civilian deaths but stressed they had only yet accounted for 29 bodies, some burned beyond recognition.
“I was with a team sent to the bombardment areas near Dhobley to bury the dead, what I have seen was really terrible,” said Absuge Mohamed Weli, a Dhobley resident told AFP.
“I counted 29 dead people, some of them burned so they could not be identified, and we have buried them,” he said. “A lot of people were also wounded.”
“I have seen more dead bodies in the forest, I recognized some of them and they were local civilians,” Weli said. “They were killed while keeping their animals. I have also seen animals, most of them cows, dead in villages.”
It was not immediately clear if the Dhobley and Afmadow estimates included the same reported deaths.
“We estimate about 100 innocent civilians have been killed,” said Dhobley elder Moalim Adan Osman. “Some are still missing and I think their bodies are somewhere in the forest.”
“The airplanes have bombed large areas and the whole zone is jungle and no one can classify what is inside,” he said. “They have bombed the nomads in the area indiscriminately.”